27 March 2007

NATO's top commander visiting troops in Kosovo

Associated Press, Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:03 AM


PRISTINA, Serbia-NATO's supreme commander on Tuesday visited alliance peacekeepers in Kosovo, where tensions have been high in anticipation of proposals for the disputed province's future status.


It was U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock's first inspection of the 16,000-strong, NATO-led force, known as KFOR, since he took charge of the alliance last month, a NATO spokesman in Kosovo said.


"He gave assurances that KFOR will be here for any eventual problem before and after the status is resolved," Kosovo government spokeswoman Ulpiana Lama said.


The chief envoy for the United Nations, which is mediating the Kosovo status talks, plans to issue recommendations for the province in a report soon after Serbian elections this Sunday. Many fear the report by Martti Ahtisaari could spark renewed violence between Kosovo's Serb minority and its majority ethnic Albanians, who want independence from Serbia.


NATO's commander in Kosovo pledged last week that the KFOR peacekeepers would respond to any security threat in the runup to an announcement on its future status.


Craddock also met with Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku during his visit.


Kosovo has been administered by a U.N. mission since mid-1999, when NATO launched an air war to halt a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels. Belgrade insists Kosovo should have autonomy but remain within Serb borders.